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Eli Manning 'meant a lot' to former Giants center Weston Richburg

ELI-RICHBURG

MIAMI – He doesn't quite look like a surfer dude, but Weston Richburg's hair is much longer than it was when he played for the Giants.

"It's a California thing, I guess," Richburg said this week.

Richburg is all in on the Golden State, where he moved last year to join the San Francisco 49ers after four seasons with the Giants. He was the starting center in all 28 games in which he played but will not face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday because of the torn patellar tendon he suffered in a victory in New Orleans on Dec. 8.

"It's tough," Richburg said this week. "It's really cool, because we're in the Super Bowl. This is really unique. But I can't play in the game. That sucks."

It's the second year in a row Richburg's season was plagued by injuries. But in 2018 he missed only one game despite playing through a painful quad tendon tear that required offseason surgery. He was one of the 49ers' best linemen this season before "I got tangled up in a pile. I twisted over and it was a bad deal. But we won the game, which was good."

As his teammates prepare to play the biggest game of their lives, Richburg has been reduced to an observer and cheerleader who is focused on getting his leg ready for next season.

"I'm there every day," Richburg said. "I do rehab every day. I try to go to meetings at times just to kind of feel like I'm part of it. I was really happy that they let me come down with the team. They brought some guys Monday, they're bringing some guys on Thursday or Saturday, so I'm glad that they let me come down."

This isn't the first time Richburg has been felled by a long-term injury. In his final season with the Giants in 2017, he suffered a concussion that limited him to four games and forced him to go on injured reserve on Nov. 4. That was an unfortunate ending to a four-year stint that began when the Giants selected him in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Colorado State.

As a rookie, he played in all 16 games and started 15 at left guard, a position he had never played. In 2015, he moved back to his natural center position and missed one game in two seasons.

"That was my home - I'm a center," Richburg said. "That's where I like to play. I like not only the football side of it, but I really like to work kind of with the quarterback, getting everything kind of set up. I like being in that leadership role and taking control on that end of the spectrum."

Early in his career, it seemed Richburg might be in the middle of the Giants' offensive line for a decade or more. But after his shortened 2017 season, and with a new general manager and coaching staff arriving, he decided his career needed a reboot. So, he moved across the country.

"I have lots of lasting memories and relationships with guys that I met with the Giants, and that's really special to me," Richburg said. "(Offensive lineman Justin) Pugh (now with Arizona) is in the same division, which has been great. I kind of grew up in the league with him. I reached out to Eli (Manning) a couple times this year. He meant a lot to me, kind of working together close. He's just really cool to me. I met a lot of guys that were really special. A lot of the support staff that are still real close to me. Just a lot of good people out there."

Although Richburg grew up in the wide-open spaces of the Texas Panhandle, where he helped out on his family's cattle ranch, and played college football in Colorado Springs, he enjoyed living in Secaucus, N.J. when he was with the Giants. He and wife Marlee often visited New York City. Now they like are relishing their California experience, as evidenced by Richburg's flowing locks.

"It's different, but me and my wife are really enjoying being all over the place," Richburg said. "It's a very unique situation we're in, and we're taking advantage of it. It's pretty cool."

Now they are preparing for the life's biggest change. Marlee is expecting their first child, a boy, in April.

"We're going to name him Cash," Richburg said. "We came up with it in college. I don't know how we came up with it, but we were set on it for quite a few years. This is cool, really cool. I'm blessed, man."

The Richburgs recently purchased a house outside of Ft. Worth, Texas. Does that mean wearing a Cowboys uniform is in his future?

"I wouldn't do that," Richburg said. "Definitely wouldn't do that."

Once a Giant, always a Giant.

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